"A man digs a hole, he risks falling into it."
REVIEW: A very intriguing episode focusing on Skinner, starting with a long, almost wordless sequence where he covers up evidence in a killer bee case. It's all so mysterious, it kept me from putting 2 and 2 together until late in the game. But of course, this is the favor the he owes the Cigarette-Smoking Man for saving Scully from cancer, and of course, those are the plague-carrying bees from Herrenvolk. All the cloak and dagger i the first 15 minutes, and the absence of the two leads (Scully, in fact, doesn't appear at all), makes one miss the fact this is going to be a mytharc episode, but it totally is. By making Skinner commit crimes for the Syndicate, Cancerman traps him. There's his need to see Scully saved (which hasn't happened yet), and now there's a little matter of being blackmailed for those crimes. The favor becomes indentured servitude.
At least Mulder is in a position to help Skinner on the last one since he's the only investigator good enough and driven enough to know the truth. And while he doubts Skinner's allegiance at first, he eventually does bury the (frame-up) evidence. What we see in Skinner is a man who does what he has to, short of murder, but who also uses the fact he's been compromised to seek answers. In the second act, he essentially tries to undo the first's wrongs, though nothing will bring back the dead detective. Ironically, he does even more wrong by investigating the bees, allowing (if I read this correctly) Cancerman to release some of them in a school yard, killing a teacher and many kids with super-smallpox! (Not to mention the entomologist he brought his samples to.) That's gonna weigh heavy.
In the third act, we get a couple of shocking confrontations. The best of these is Skinner vs. Cancerman, the former a master of physical intimidation, the latter completely immune to it. The shocker is that after being told he's basically powerless, Skinner shoots Cancerman three times... or seems to. Our favorite bad guy is alive and well, don't worry, but his claim that he's not afraid of dying sure seems to have been put to the test. Skinner is awesome, that's accepted truth. Then there's a more ambiguous confrontation between Cancerman and the Syndicate Elders. Here, he's (as usual) vague about his methods and assurances, but lets slip that something has "already begun". So the bees are NOT contained and the plan is proceeding... ahead of schedule? Once again, we're left wondering whose side Cancerman is really on. With the black oil vaccine out of reach, are they ready for the plague that will allow colonization? Doesn't look like it. And oh yes, Marita is shown to be feeding Mulder and here Skinner at Cancerman's direction. She did seem a little too generous with the info. Time to reevaluate all her past appearances for signs of foul play? Definitely how Cancerman knew Mulder was in Siberia, since she gave him the proper papers.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - A much better Skinner episode than Avatar, playing out first as a mystery for the audience, then a mystery for Skinner and Mulder.